The Best Lawn Fertilizer

Safer Brand Ringer Lawn Fertilizer

Our Top Pick for 2016: Safer Brand Ringer Lawn Fertilizer
Read our full review.

See it on Amazon for $29.30*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
Too expensive? See our budget pick.

Growing and maintaining the healthiest, best-looking lawn possible is the goal of millions of homeowners, but debate rages over the role of lawn fertilizer in reaching that goal. Too many homeowners have seen theirs or their neighbor’s lawn die thanks to the application of too much fertilizer or the wrong kind at the wrong time. Knowing why fertilizer should be applied and how to do it properly will help you avoid this problem.

A lawn primarily needs fertilizer so that it can get all the nutrients the grass roots require to grow strong and healthy. Depending on your location and other factors, the soil in your yard may provide almost all the nutrients and other elements necessary for growing a healthy lawn. However, your home might be in an area that is deficient in enough essential elements that fertilizer will be required to grow a green and healthy lawn. The following fertilizers are rated as being among the best in the industry.

Table of contents

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Builds Strong, Deep Roots
Plant-based Nutrients
2-in-1 Formula Feeds And Supplements With Iron
Improves Lawn’s Ability To Absorb Water And Nutrients
No Poultry Litter Or Bio-solids
Thickens Grass To Fill In Bare Spots
Okay To Re-enter Lawn Immediately After Application
No Manures Or Odor
Thickens Turf To Crowd Out New Weeds
Apply Any Season To Any Grass Type
Rapid Greening And Plant Response
Essential Nutrients For Deeper Greening
Crowds Out New Weeds
No Risk Of Burning Or Over Applying
Any Season

*Price at time of publishing and may not reflect current pricing.

#1 Gold pick (Winner): Safer Brand Ringer Lawn Fertilizer

Safer Brand Ringer Lawn Fertilizer Gold Pick

View it on Amazon for $29.30*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-gold-winnerThe top-rated lawn fertilizer is one that is environmentally friendly. Safer Brand, which was developed more than 30 years ago, offers organic gardening products that won’t harm people or pets while offering gardening help focusing on natural and organic ingredients. The company is committed to helping gardeners safely grow the best lawns and plants possible for the best price on the market.

Safer Brand Ringer Lawn Fertilizer comes in a 25-pound bag and sells for $39.99 retail, although it can be found for nearly 30 percent less online. The 25-pound bag of Safer Brand Ringer Lawn Fertilizer can cover a lawn of up to 5,000 square feet.

The manufacturer of Safe Brand says that the organic fertilizer helps a lawn turn greener in just three to five days. This happens because Safer Brand Ringer Lawn Fertilizer works to create the right balance of nutrients and other essential ingredients in the soil, replenishing missing nutrients that cause your grass to struggle to thrive or to even die. One of the keys to a healthy, thriving lawn is a strong root system. With the help of Safer Brand Ringer Lawn Fertilizer, your lawn develops a deep and strong root system and the underlying soil more easily transfers necessary nutrients to the grass.

Safer Brand recommends that homeowners apply its Ringer Lawn Fertilizer about three times each growing season. For the best results, the first application of the fertilizer should be applied early in the spring and the last application should happen in September. A mid-summer application can be made as you see the need. One of the strong selling points of Safer Brand Ringer Lawn Fertilizer is the absence of salt-based chemicals. Therefore, your lawn won’t be burned if you inadvertently apply too much fertilizer. The fertilizer is made of completely organic nutrients that are plant-based.

As with other fertilizers, Safer Brand Ringer Lawn Fertilizer carries a designation of NPK, denoting nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. However, Ringer Lawn Fertilizer’s NPK ratio is 10-0-6, meaning that it contains no phosphorus at all. While phosphorus does help contribute to a stronger root system, easily runs off into water supplies, which research has shown can harm aquatic life. Safer Brand Ringer Lawn Fertilizer is an excellent alternative for you if you live in a municipality or state that has severely limited or even banned the use of phosphorus-based fertilizers. Nitrogen provides nutrients necessary to help a lawn’s grass turn green quickly, while potassium gives the roots the strength they need to withstand dry periods and even drought.

Because of its reputation, many homeowners avoid using organic-based fertilizer on their lawns, primarily due to the presence of manure and similar products in the organic composition of the fertilizer. However, Safer Brand doesn’t use any manure. It instead contains dried distillers grain, a byproduct of ethanol production, as well as non-GMO soybean meal and sulfate of potash. The dried distillers grain quickly releases organic nitrogen while the non-GMO soybean meal is responsible for providing more slowly-released nitrogen. Sulfate of potash is the source of the potassium that helps create a lush and full lawn.

About 65 percent of homeowners who have used Safer Brand Ringer Lawn Fertilizer say that they definitely see an improvement in their lawns after applying Safe Brand Fertilizer. In most cases, the grass becomes greener and softer within a few days of application, although some homeowners claim the change is noticeable within just a day. Most reviewers emphasize the need to be patient while waiting for Safer Brand Ringer Lawn Fertilizer to do its work, since the product focuses on improving the underlying soil, which takes more time. Reviewers also praise the lack of a bad odor when the fertilizer is applied. Additionally, pets and family member don’t need to stay off the lawn for hours or even days after the fertilizer is applied. In most cases, the fertilizer covers 5,000 square feet completely as advertised.

However, there are some drawbacks. Safer Brand Ringer Lawn Fertilizer is no longer available at retail outlets, according to reviewers, but must be purchased online. Most reviewers found that to be a minor problem. The most consistent drawback of the fertilizer is its price. Reviewers mention that the organic Safer Brand fertilizer sells for just over $1.50 per pound, an expensive product when compared to some synthetic fertilizers that sell for less than 40 cents a pound. However, homeowners interested in using only safe and natural organic fertilizers give Safer Brand Ringer Lawn Fertilizer good praise for its performance.

#2 Silver pick (Runner-up): Scotts Turf Builder Lawn Food

Scotts Turf Builder Lawn Food

View it on Amazon for $15.48*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-silver-winnerScotts has had a reputation as a premier lawn products company almost since its founding in the late 1860s. Starting with its acquisition of Hyponex Corp. in the late 1980s, Scott has acquired, merged with and collaborated with a number of lawn care, seed, fertilizer and similar companies to expand its market range. Scotts Turf Builder Lawn Food is an example of the research and development Scotts has undertaken to bring the most up-to-date products to the home lawn care market.

Scotts Turf Builder Lawn Food does its work by improving the ability of grass roots to trap and absorb necessary nutrients that make it look green, healthy and lush. A lawn that has received an application of Lawn Food can retain water and nutrients much better than a lawn that hasn’t received any treatment at all. The 14-pound bag covers 5,000 square feet of lawn. It retails for $17.99, but can be purchased online or at many wholesale garden centers for as little as $15.50, making the fertilizer cost just over a dollar per pound.

The nutrient ratio of Scotts Turf Builder Lawn Food is 32-0-4, with extra small percentages of sulfur and iron included. Scotts, like many other lawn product companies, is removing phosphorus from its fertilizer formulation to prevent the damage runoff causes to streams and aquatic life. Scotts Turf Builder can be applied at any time that your grass is growing, whether that’s in early spring, later in the fall or during the hot summer growing season. Scotts Turf Builder can be applied to any kind of grass because it’s designed to strengthen the grass against any problems that could arise in the future. It’s recommended that feedings be repeated every six to eight weeks during the growing season. Another benefit of this lawn food is the fact that children and pets can use the lawn right after it’s been applied without worry about coming in contact with harmful substances.

Seven out of ten reviewers who have used Scotts Turf Builder Lawn Food say that that the fertilizer works as well as advertised. Reviewers report that their grass became more noticeably green and lush within several days of the first application of the fertilizer. One of the unexpected benefits mentioned by reviewers is the absence of weeds, even though a weed killer isn’t included in the Turf Builder formula. Instead, the thick, healthy grass simply chokes out weeds that would normally gain a foothold in less healthy lawns.

Reviewers also note that it’s easy to apply Scotts Turf Builder Lawn Food to their properties. The lawn food can be used with drop or rotary spreaders in temperatures up to at least 90 degrees. It’s recommended that the lawn be watered immediately if the temperature is over 90 degrees. If rain is expected within about 24 hours after the lawn food is applied, watering isn’t necessary. Otherwise, the lawn must be watered so that the granular food particles can start working properly. You can apply the lawn food to either wet or dry grass. Experts recommend applying Turf Builder Lawn Food in rows, with each row slightly overlapping so that coverage will be optimal.

Some reviewers who have used Scotts Turf Builder Lawn Food weren’t happy with the results, however. Reviewers report that the lawn food burned their grass when too much was accidentally applied. Others said that the lawn food either didn’t remove the weeds already in their lawns or even introduced new weeds. However, the majority of reviewers who used Scotts Turf Builder Lawn Food commented that their lawns became noticeably more green and full within a few days of applying the product.

#3 Bronze pick (3rd place): Scotts Green Max Lawn Food

Scotts Green Max Lawn Food

View it on Amazon for $20.96*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-bronze-awardLike Scotts Turf Builder Lawn Food, Scotts Green Max Lawn Food from Scotts Miracle Gro works to give a lawn the nutrients it needs in just a few days so that the grass becomes noticeably thicker, greener and softer. However, Scotts Green Max Lawn Food includes some things the Turf Builder Lawn Food formula doesn’t have. A special addition of iron gives grass this needed nutrient which helps the lawn look so lush that the color appears blue-green. If you appreciate the look of a golf course, you can achieve that same appearance in your own lawn with the added supplement of iron.

Scotts Green Max Lawn Food comes in a 16.75-pound bag that will cover up to 5,000 square feet of lawn and retails for $20.96, or about 1.25 cents per pound. The standard lawn food is available everywhere but Florida, which has a specific formula that is sold only in that state. Like the Scotts Turf Builder Lawn Food, the Green Max Lawn Food granules can be spread with a drop or rotary spreader.

The Green Max Lawn Food offers some extra benefits other lawn foods don’t seem to be able to provide. Green Max Lawn Food can help cover up the bare spots in lawns by helping the surrounding grass grow thickly and spread to adjacent areas. Green Max Lawn Food also helps prevent new weeds from growing in a lawn by becoming so thick that the weeds can’t get a foothold in the soil.

Like Turf Builder Lawn Food, Scotts Green Max Lawn Food has no phosphorus in its formula. The lawn food’s composition is between 27 and 33 percent nitrogen, 10 percent sulfur, five percent iron and two percent potash. It can be applied to any type of grass in any season of the year. Reviewers who have used Green Max Lawn Food say that it performs as advertised to help the grass in a lawn start looking greener and thicker within a few days. In fact, most reviewers seemed to be hard-pressed to find any drawbacks to using Green Max Lawn Food. Whether you’re attempting to revitalize an established lawn or spur growth in reseeded areas, Green Max Lawn Food seems to do the job phenomenally well. The additional nutrients are cited as reasons that lawns become green and stay that way throughout the summer. Reviewers in different areas of the country with different types of lawn grasses commented that Green Max Lawn Food worked well in all kinds of conditions.

In fact, the only real drawback to using Scotts Green Max Lawn Food, according to experts and reviewers, is the danger of staining driveways, sidewalks, decks and similar hard concrete areas if the lawn food isn’t applied carefully. The iron in the formula will leave rust stains behind if it’s inadvertently left on hard surfaces. It’s recommended that the lawn food be used very carefully around hard surfaces. If any of the granules inadvertently get onto these surfaces, they won’t cause damage if they are removed immediately. Other than the risk of rust stains, reviewers say that Scotts Green Max Lawn Food does what it claims to do, that is, create a lusher and much greener lawn in a week or less.

#4 Budget pick (Best cheap): Miracle-Gro Lawn Food

Miracle-Gro Lawn Food

View it on Amazon for $12.94*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

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If you’d like to save some money, Miracle-Gro Lawn Food offers a budget-priced six-pound water-soluble lawn food that covers up to 4,000 square feet of lawn. Miracle-Gro Lawn Food retails for $12.84 per box, but can be found for a lower price on many online shopping sites. The lawn food crystals are designed to dissolve in water when a Miracle-Gro dispenser is attached to a garden hose or the lawn food is applied with a pump sprayer.

The majority of homeowners who have reviewed Miracle-Gro Lawn Food report that the lawn food does what it’s advertised to do, which is to instantly feed a lawn and encourage the growth of thicker and softer grass. The nutrient content is 36-0-6, meaning that Miracle-Gro Lawn Food is particularly high in nitrogen content, which is the reason lawns quickly become greener and lusher in just days. It can be reapplied every two to three weeks, but many reviewers report it does its job so well that reapplication is needed just two or three times during the growing season. While Miracle-Gro Lawn Food’s high nitrogen content helps improve the appearance of a lawn, the company recommends that children and pets stay off the lawn for 24 hours after the lawn food has been applied. Additionally, any leftover lawn food must either be given away or disposed of as a hazardous waste, primarily because of the unusually high nitrogen content.

Some reviewers report that, rather than using the water soluble granules in a dispenser, they simply spread the granules using a spreader or even simply broadcast the granules across the lawn. Four packets of the granules and an included measuring spoon help homeowners correctly measure the amount needed for each fertilizing job.

The primary drawback of Miracle-Gro Lawn Food, as with most other lawn fertilizers, is the danger of over applying the product and burning the grass as a result. Carefully reading application instructions can help homeowners avoid that issue. Other comments from reviewers stated that they didn’t see any of the expected results from the lawn food, or that their grass grew but weeds grew along with the grass. Primarily, however, homeowners who have used Miracle-Gro Lawn Food have been happy with the resulting greener appearance of their lawns.


Pre-purchase considerations

Know what kind of grass is in the lawn

Advertisements blast the benefits of lawn fertilizers with high numbers of certain nutrients while online reviewers praise the results of specific products they’ve tried and love. However, the lawn fertilizer with the best rating may not be the fertilizer you need. Different fertilizers are formulated to work well with different kinds of grasses. A fertilizer that helps Kentucky blue grass thrive may not be the right product at all for zoysiagrass or tall fescue. Being familiar with the type of grass already growing in your lawn or the kind of grass that would best thrive there is the first step to having a fuller, greener lawn.

Test the soil

Before any fertilizer can be put down on an existing lawn or one that’s under construction, you need to know the ratios of the primary nutrients already present in the soil. Applying nitrogen to a lawn that already has plenty of the nutrient can be just as detrimental to the grass as taking too much of a vitamin could be for you. A soil test kit is typically available at an extension office in each county through a state university. Test kits can also be obtained through online soil testing laboratories. Once the soil is analyzed, you’ll have a much clearer picture of the nutrients your lawn needs.

Know what the nutrients do

Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium are the three primary nutrients most lawns require. Of the three, nitrogen is the most important because it helps stimulate the growth and reproduction of plants. Grass that doesn’t have enough nitrogen becomes yellow and shows signs of stunted growth. Potassium, the second most important nutrient, plays an important role in photosynthesis and also helps grass use water most efficiently. Signs that a lawn isn’t getting enough of this nutrient are dried and curling blades of grass.

Phosphorus is the third of the primary nutrients found in fertilizer, but today it often isn’t included in lawn fertilizers. Research has shown that phosphorus easily runs off into waterways and can irreparably harm aquatic life when its levels of concentration are too high. As a result, many lawn fertilizer companies are either severely lowering phosphorus levels in their products or eliminating this nutrient altogether. In the proper amounts, phosphorus does play a role in helping plants develop healthy root systems.

Choose between organic and synthetic fertilizers

The debate over the pros and cons of organic and synthetic fertilizers continues, confusing homeowners who can’t understand which type of fertilizer is the best for their needs. Synthetic fertilizers generally show results more quickly, while organic products work more slowly through the root systems of the grass. Synthetic fertilizers cost less than organic fertilizers, but many people are concerned about the impact these products have on the environment. You’ll want to determine which factors are most important when deciding between organic and synthetic lawn fertilizer products.

Decide between granules or liquids

Many of the bulk lawn fertilizers on the market come as granules in bags weighing from 12 to 25 pounds or even more. Applying granules to a lawn is a bit more time-consuming for the typical homeowner. The granules need to be put down with a spreader and the homeowner must be careful to completely cover the lawn. Once the granules are down, they must be watered into the lawn to start working. Although liquid lawn fertilizer may seem easier to apply, there are certain factors to consider.

A liquid fertilizer containing nutrients that could damage such things as walkways or driveways shouldn’t be applied when it’s windy, for example. It can also be harder to be certain that you have covered the lawn completely. Experts says that’s why lawn care companies more often use liquid fertilizers. They have the equipment and experience to do it properly. It’s recommended that homeowners stick to granular lawn fertilizers.

Granular fertilizers can be quick-release or slow-release, meaning that the nutrients are released sooner or more slowly. Many lawn care experts recommend choosing slow-release fertilizers because re-application of the fertilizer isn’t needed as often.

Conclusion (Wrapping it up)

Choosing the right lawn fertilizer isn’t just a matter of going to the store and choosing the product that’s the least expensive or one that makes the boldest promises on the packaging. The type of soil under the grass, the current condition of the lawn and the climate of the area are all important factors to think about. A soil test is necessary to help determine which nutrients are missing from the soil. Once all of these factors are considered, you can then take the time to choose the right fertilizer for your lawn, based on its specific needs. Once you’ve applied it, you can start enjoying the best-looking lawn on your block.

Discussion and comments

We want to know what you think. Do you own any of the products we discussed? Which did you buy and how did it work out for you?

Do you know of an even better product?

Comment below and help your fellow consumers make the right choice. Over to you!

Resources

  1. Audrey Lynn, SF Gate Home Guides, How Long to See an Effect from Turf Builder?
  2. The Garden Counselor Lawn Care, Do Lawn Fertilizers Hold The Secrets To Green Grass?
  3. Popular Mechanics, The Quick and Easy Guide to Fertilizing Your Lawn
  4. C. J. Rosen, B. P. Horgan and R. J. Mugaas, University of Minnesota Extension, Fertilizing lawns
  5. LawnTalk Lawn Care Info for Northern Illinois, Choosing Fertilizers for Home Lawns
  6. The Garden Counselor Lawn Care, Fertilizer Numbers: What Do They Mean?
  7. Diane Watkins, SF Gate Home Guides, What Does Each Main Ingredient in Fertilizer Do For Plants?

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